Meaghan Kennedy really wanted a piñata for her 28th birthday, so she checked out a how-to book, fashioned herself a poodle piñata and trotted it out at Paul Anthony’s Talent Time, a live monthly variety show.
“Because they had a monthly piñata and I thought that was kind of awesome and it kind of inspired me,” Kennedy said.
“Everyone put down their phones and really interacted in it,” she said. “It was just like really violent but adorable smashing of this thing that had taken me, like, three weeks to make, but it was awesome… And then just something sparked and I started making them for everything.”
That was seven years ago. Kennedy shortly broke from her career in high-end retail and now crafts dinosaurs, unicorns and human figures full time.
She and Harrison Lee, the yo-yo trick wunderkind, will teach those who attend Interesting Vancouver’s first DoShop, July 25, new party tricks.
Kennedy’s piñata-making career took off when requests started rolling in. First she was asked to make a piñata of Steve Martin for a “I Hate Steve Martin” party.
“It kind of just started happening more and more often,” Kennedy said. “Like, ‘My friend just broke up with her boyfriend, could you make her as a piñata so she can get over it and fill it with, like, dildos, booze.’”
She added, “What pays my rent is businessmen. I make a lot of the CEO of a company, like white, bald dudes in suits… If your boss already owns his Rolex, he owns his yacht, what do you buy a guy that has everything? A custom piñata, of them.”
(Such piñatas are less likely to be smashed, but she’s willing to rebuild them for a fee.)
Kennedy’s creations gained attention across North American when a likeness of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke she created appeared in GQ magazine.
“[GQ] came to Vancouver for Fashion Week and they hated it and so they all went and got drunk at Aphrodite’s at brunch, looked on the ceiling and were like, ‘These are cool’ and ended up just featuring me in their magazine instead of Vancouver Fashion,” she said.
Her piñatas have been featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and in the Globe and Mail and Elle Canada, and Kennedy has provided piñata-making workshops to tech industry heavyweights in the San Francisco Bay area.
One tech top dog was adamant he wasn’t creative.
“He spent two-and-a-half hours longer than anyone else making his thing and made like the dopest piñata I’ve ever seen in my life,” she said. “It was like this crazy octopus with like a jellyfish coming out of it and an alien.”
Kennedy encountered a similar lack of creative self-confidence when she invited adults to draw with sidewalk chalk at English Bay last summer.
“Every single grownup that walked by said ‘I’m not a very good drawer,’” she said. “I mean it’s Vancouver. It’s going to rain in like 45 minutes. It’s sidewalk chalk, so who cares?
“That was really upsetting and really interesting,” she continued. “We’re so based on validation and rules and being good at stuff that we don’t allow ourselves to just goof around and be silly at something and make a mess, and who cares.”
At the DoShop event, Kennedy plans to demonstrate how to make a piñata “cooking show style” with each participant leaving the session with a unicorn or head they’ve decorated.
“It’s like $30, you leave with a piñata and you get lunch and a beer,” she said.
She hopes those who shape a piñata at DoShop won’t take the session too seriously.
“The cool thing with making a piñata, even if you’re not creative and it’s super ugly, you just get to fill it and break it, so it’s fine.”
Interesting Vancouver is an annual community event that showcases “ordinary” people sharing fascinating stories about their hobbies, passions and obsessions.
DoShop runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at MakerLabs, 780 East Cordova. For more information, see interestingvancouver.com.